Golfers can travel with their clubs all they want, like my staff and I do for a living, and it never really gets easier. I've schlepped my golf clubs around airports all over the world, and it's still a pain rolling the bag from the economy parking lot, or loading and unloading them on rental-car shuttles, squeezing them onto an escalator. At most airports, you have to drop off and pick up the bag at a separate location from your regular baggage.
At the most basic level, checking a golf bag is often a little cheaper than shipping them. (Ship Sticks offers a base rate of $39 for bags under 42 pounds.) Southwest Airlines still costs nothing as long as it's one of your first two checked bags. On other airlines, it's $20-$100 to check bags.
Limited time: Use promo code GOLFADVISOR to receive 15% off your next Ship Sticks order here. (This offer is valid towards the total cost of a single order and expires on 12/31/2015. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. All coupon codes are case sensitive and must be entered at the time of checkout.)
But looking beyond the black-and-white math of the airlines' $0-$100 vs. Ship Sticks' $39 and up, there are still a lot examples where shipping your luggage makes more sense. PGA members as well as PGA Tour pros have made a habit out of using the service. Here are 10 reasons why it might make sense to give Ship Sticks a shot on your next golf vacation:
1. Your itinerary includes flying in small, regional aircraft
I've found the majority of times my clubs don't arrive to a destination when I do, it's the result of connecting on small, regional aircraft into smaller airports. If the plane is overweight, large items such as clubs are the first to be taken off the plane and moved to the next flight, which can often times not be until the next day.
What happens next, as many of us know, is a cat-and-mouse game of delivery tracking, as well as asking airlines what exactly they'll reimburse you for, and often not really getting a clear answer. But the fact of the matter is airlines won't reimburse you for shoes, balls or rental clubs until it's been over 24 hours since you landed.
2. You want to avoid the hassle and uncertainty of luggage check-in
If your golf clubs are the only bags you plan on checking at the airport, you could save considerable time by shipping them. Not only that, it eliminates a potential headache. Case in point: On a recent Las Vegas golf trip, I decided to ship my clubs home on Friday after my round final round of the trip at TPC Las Vegas. TPC Network properties have a partnership with Ship Sticks and will print the label and pack up your clubs for you.
When I arrived at McCarran Airport for my flight on Sunday evening, Southwest's computers were down, making lines to check bags at the counter more than two hours long. If I had my clubs with me, I could have very well missed my flight or had to make a mad dash in a cab to a nearby FedEx location. But all I had was a carry-on, so I was through security in 20 minutes.
3. You want your clubs properly insured
Airlines won't assume liability for damage to clubs in soft-shell golf-travel bags. (Sometimes, the counter makes me sign a waiver, other times they don't -- I'm not even sure if the airlines know their own policies.) Ship Sticks' base insurance coverage is $1,000 and it's included with all shipments. You can also upgrade your insurance up to $3,500.
4. Flying international
In the case of tight international connections, having to claim your bags, go through customs and re-check bags can lead to a mad dash to your connecting gate. International hubs such as JFK in New York and Miami International Airport come to mind as places where customs lines can back up to ridiculous lengths. Ship Sticks sends golf bags internationally to golf destinations such as Scotland and Ireland and anywhere else. Visit the Ship Sticks FAQ page for more details on international shipping.
5. You don't trust the other knuckleheads at the baggage claim
Speaking of delayed and lost bags, our very own Jason Scott Deegan had a horrific experience at a baggage claim in Scotland. Upon arrival, by the time he had gotten through customs and to the carousel, some other eager, red-eyed golfer had walked off with his clubs.
Fortunately, the bloke was honest enough to own up and call him and get his bag back to him as fast as possible. But the fact remains, the baggage-claim process, particularly with valuable items, is still pretty archaic.
6. You don't have a proper golf travel bag
If you don't have a golf-travel bag to ship your clubs, no problem. You can purchase a golf club/sporting goods box, which can be purchased at any shipping store, for around $10-20, and it's reusable.
7. From the golf club bag room to the resort
If you store your bag at your golf club's bag room, you can use Ship Sticks to have the pro shop print and ship your bags to your destination, hotel or golf course, instead of having to drive to the club and pack them up yourself. Ship Sticks currently operates in more than 2,800 U.S. golf facilities.
8. Golf is a last-minute addition to the trip
Have you ever gone on a work trip or vacation with no golf planned, only to be invited out for a round or two once you're already there? Rather than rely on rentals or using a friend's 20-year-old set, you can have your own clubs shipped out as long as there is someone at home to put your clubs in your golf-travel bag. With the clubs secured and the bar-code label attached, the clubs can be left on your front porch for the driver to collect.
9. Your destination is outside the airlines' delivery radius from your arrival airport
Airlines are pretty good about delivering bags to your destination, but only if that destination is close enough to the airport. Exactly how far a courier will go to deliver a bag depends on the airport and airline, but if you are staying longer than an hour or so from the airport, you may not be able to have your late bags delivered to you at all.
10. You're traveling deep
If the whole family is in tow, you've surely got your hands full at the baggage claim. Not only will the bag fees add up, but you might run out of room in the rental car.
The fact is, when you ship your clubs once, and everything goes smoothly, the ease of it all may get a little addicting.
Have you ever shipped your clubs rather than flown with them? What did you think?